One thing is for sure: Starlin Castro can hit. With nearly 1,000 major league plate appearances under his belt, Castro is an established .300 hitter — and he's 21 freaking years old.
But what else can we say about Castro's skill set, roughly 1,000 PAs after his debut? Let's look at some more sabery stuff — like BABIP, ISO, and UZR — to evaluate Starlin's growth over the past two seasons.
In his debut season, Castro posted a .346 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), one of the highest such rates in the league. And while BABIP does fluctuate from year to year for both pitchers and hitters, it tends to be more stable for offensive players, moving up and down with a batter's batted ball types and speed.
Some folks might have assumed Castro's high BABIP in 2010 was the product of a season-long lucky streak. But that theory has since been debunked, as Starlin has basically the same BABIP this year that he did last year, giving him the 7th-highest BABIP in the league since his debut. Furthermore, he has a lower strikeout rate than all six of the hitters ahead of him in BABIP. That means if he can increase his home run totals over the next few years while keeping the BABIP high and the K-rate low, he's as good a bet as any to win a batting title. But I guess we already knew that about him.
Derek Jeter, who posted a BABIP similar to Castro's in his first couple years in the league, posted multiple seasons with a BABIP at or above .380.
Speaking of tacking on a few more HRs: has Castro's power increased at all this season? The answer is yes. His isolated slugging percentage (ISO, or SLG - AVG) is up by 11 points this year, up from .108 to .119.
Jeter's ISO in his first few years hovered around .115, before bouncing around between .150 and .200 for a few years, when his HR totals varied between 15 and 24. But Jeter's power stroke really didn't present itself until his age 24 season, so it may be a while for Starlin as well. (See this image for a better idea of what I'm talking about.)
Starlin isn't any more patient this season than he was last year — in fact, his BB% has gone down, from 5.7% to 4.1%. But his strikeout rate is down also, from 14% to 13.3%. For me, the numbers are so close over the past two years that I don't think they'll change much over the next several seasons. But whatever, he's already a .300 hitter at age 21 so who are you to criticize his approach Mr. Sour Pants?
Last year: 10 SB against 8 CS. In 2011: 12 SB against 5 CS. Better, but still a little ways to go.
His fielding percentage has improved slightly, from .950 to .965. But who cares about fielding percentage? Instead, check out UZR, which says his runs allowed on errors are down — but his range and double play ability are apparently worse, too. If you ask me, my eyes say he's getting better about making routine plays. I'm worried that some people are still saying he won't be able to stick at SS as he gets older, but I'm not smart enough to have an opinion on the issue myself. He's certainly got the arm to stay on the left side of the infield, but I guess we'll see if that's at SS or 3B.
I guess that's about all I've got. The hitting/running signs are good, but I don't know if we know any more now than we did a year ago about his future on defense.
Filed under: Starlin Castro